Top 10 Hiring Mistakes #8: Awful Interviewing


Providing you have completed a solid process to this point, you are ready to interview. The interview is generally the first time you have ever laid eyes on the candidate for your role and presents the best opportunity to verify they are indeed good for the role.


It is here that you will really start to determine if the person sitting in front of you is employee material – which is why the questions you ask will determine if you make the right decision.

However, too many interviewers fall into a whole world of problems when this process kicks off. Via inexperience, fear or downright ignorance, the mistakes made during the interview are amongst the most common.

Firstly, the trap of asking the same generic, vanilla questions gaining the same, vanilla response and shedding no sufficient light as to the candidate’s suitability is a common awful interview mistake.

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself
  • What are you looking for in a new role?
  • Tell us about a time you offered great customer service
  • What kind of working environment do you like working in?
  • Why did you leave your last role?


Use a couple of these to gain some benchmarking, but using every question only as your interview time and time again is simply forgoing the uniqueness of the person in front of you for generalities. You simply won’t get the information you are after to make an informed decision.

To put it plainly: if you ask these same questions over and over again, you will get uniformity in the answers – regardless of who is sitting in front of you.

Ask questions that are interesting, that probe deeply into a candidates skills, experience and behaviors AND ask questions that reflect you have actually read the resume (and not in the 5 minutes before the interview itself!). Remember, you are qualifying an individual, not one in a series of clones. Therefore, the questions must suit the individuality of the candidate.

Remember though to keep the questions above board. You cannot ask questions that fall into the realm of ‘illegal’ which could place you and your business in a precarious legal position. Keep questions on:

  • sex;
  • disability/impairment;
  • marital status;
  • political and religious belief or activity;
  • race;
  • status as a parent or career;
  • age;
  • physical features;
  • pregnancy and potential pregnancy;
  • industrial activity;
  • personal association with a person who has any of these attributes.

Out of the picture. It is an easy trap to fall into, so best to consider that questions including these:

  • How old are you? What is your date of birth?
  • Do you speak English at home?
  • How many sick days did you take last year?
  • Are you married? What is your maiden name?
  • Do you reside with another person?
  • Who cares for the children while you are working?
  • Are you gay?

Are illegal.


Another thought is that the interview is always a structured question / answer format, very formal and very precise…and very dull. It is unlikely you will identify the behaviors / personality of the candidate in this structured format. What is wrong with firstly holding the interview away from the more formal setting and into something like a quiet cafe or similar? Allowing the candidate to relax in a setting outside of a formal office gives some worthwhile information about the candidate’s approaches / behaviors that may not be evident in that formal setting. From there, turn the interview into a conversation. That way, you are able to get the candidate to be in a more relaxed situation which allows them to feel more comfortable and allow greater flow of information and detail.


Ask the average business owner who conducts all interviews in their business and the answer invariable is themselves, or if they have a HR representative, them. Far too often, the most vital tool in the interviewing arsenal lies unused: the team. An interesting article by Chester Elton, a US business expert, called ‘Your Team Can Smell a Rat’ confirms exactly what I have been saying for years: get your team involved in your interview process. In this article, the story related says that it was the team’s feedback about a candidate’s unsuitability to a role that, whilst being ignored by management, turned out to be right – at a significant cost to the business.

The thing is, the very people that know who will fit into their team are those who will be working with them day in and day out. They should have the opportunity to assess for themselves the suitability of the candidate. On top of this, they should be listened to when offering feedback. It is a risky move to ignore the team’s call based on personal feelings or opinions.

The tale here is the get your interview right. You are not going to get a better chance to find out the fit of a candidate in any other forum than the interview. Don’t leave it at one interview – you will never be able to make an informed decision based on one interview…unless it is a really long interview which is neither smart nor comfortable for either party. Know the questions to ask, and what information you want to gain from it to make a qualified decision. Know where to hold it and get your whole team involved. Only then will you get to a spot where you can safely move into the next phase of the hiring process safe in the knowledge you have gleaned a solid view of the candidate and can decide accordingly on progress.

Scott Brown

Principal at

Hi, I'm Scott. I am a recruitment expert and small business hiring consultant with over 14 years industry experience. I started my business in 2009 as a pure recruiter, but have morphed it into a consultancy on internal hiring. I love small business and I love what I do, as it really sits well with my passion for the people side of any business. On top of that I am a blogger / writer and speaker on hiring within small businesses.